The sport of roller derby has become popular with Australian women.
The sport of roller derby has become popular with Australian women. Contributed

Waitress gets her skates on

BELINDA Morris may be a waitress in a cafe at an antique store by day, but by night she goes by the name Dodge&Bolt and weaves her magic in a different arena - the fast-rolling domain of roller derby.

The 23-year-old former Maroochydore woman eats, sleeps and breathes roller derby, which is the fastest growing women's sport in the world.

Morris said derby was the most fun you could have on skates and she couldn't imagine her life without it.

"Derby is my passion. It is my main focus in life," she said.

"While my friends have children, partners or careers - I have roller derby."

When Morris first started in derby she was timid, but now she has evolved into the feared jammer Dodge&Bolt.

"I taught myself to skate and I built up my fitness and confidence," she said.

Morris is a member of Brisbane team The Riots, which is part of the Sun State Roller Girls League, but she started out in the Sunshine Coast's Coastal Assassins Roller Derby League, just over a year ago.

The SSRG is the biggest roller derby league in Queensland and currently sits in second position in Australia.

The league recognises and celebrates female diversity and strength, empowering and supporting women in all parts of life.

The game began as a skating exhibition in Chicago in the 1930s, created and founded by Leo Seltzer.

After declining in popularity in the 1970s it came back with a vengeance at the turn of the century.

Nowadays, the international league has more than 2000 teams in 40 countries.

Morris, who played for Team Australia in the Roller Derby World Cup last year, admitted it was a tough game to play, with sometimes just as much contact as a rugby league match, and there was no denying broken bones came with the territory.

"You can definitely take a beating as a jammer. But we all wear our derby bruises and injuries with pride," she said.

The roller derby community is tight-knit. Most of the participants come into the game as a result of recommendations from friends and family members.

The derby star said the sport was her escape - the place she went to gain perspective on life.

"On the track, my worries of the real world, family and work are left behind," Morris said.

"It gives you the freedom to be more aggressive than you'd be in everyday life, or to be something you normally wouldn't be."

Morris is well-known as the larrikin of the derby league.

There are a number of videos of Dodge&Bolt parading around the flat derby track in her really short hotpants, shaking her booty to the music on the loud speaker to keep the crowd amused before a game and when referees need to consult with each other.

Dodge&Bolt brings out the lighter side in everyone who meets her or sees her doing her thing, including her family and friends, fellow team members and people in the grand stands at a bout.

Morris is "so into derby" she studies American pros, watches documentaries and training sessions, practises twice as much as her team members and reads books on the game.

She even has posters of all the American derby skaters covering the walls in her apartment.

You can see in her eyes how determined she is. She is the point scorer - and she does it well. It is amazing to watch her. She is untouchable when she is in the game.

Morris' father Gerry said he was proud of how his daughter had stuck to her guns despite people saying roller derby was a waste of time.

"She is such a strong spirit and can achieve anything she sets her mind to," he said.

"As a father you always hope you have inspired your children to work hard and be strong in their convictions, but it is an amazing moment when your children can inspire the same in you."

Gerry said watching his daughter on the track was a highlight of his life but sometimes he had to turn away so he didn't see her collide with someone on the opposing team or fall flat on her face.

"It is so exciting to watch the girls play each game. It can get quite rough and you worry about them, but that is what they train and prepare for," he said.

"What are a few bumps and bruises if it means you are doing what you love?"

Although there are a number of positions you can play in the team from the jammer and pivot to the blockers, Morris prefers to play jammer, whose aim is to lap the track faster than the rest of the team to notch up points.

Morris said she was glad she had made the move from the Sunshine Coast league to Brisbane, because not only was it a bigger league, it was also a stepping stone to once again play for Team Australia.

But her ultimate ambition is to make it into the American league.

"Roller derby empowers females by giving women of any shape, size, ability or age the opportunity to play. It is the ideal woman's sport," Morris said.

"The sport has changed my life for the better and I will be forever grateful for that."

 

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